Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why people leave South Africa ....

Note: I am not writing this post to stir up a hornets nest or to be hung out and lambasted because of what I say, these are just my own thoughts on leaving South Africa. I am not a proffessional writer and my thoughts maybe all over the place.

Before I go into my reasons that I think people leave South Africa I have to go back to where we came from.  I am still and always will be a patriotic South African but I don't see myself living there again, at the age of 51, I don't want to start over again.  So here are my thoughts ... 

I often wondered where my origins started as my mothers family had been in South Africa for a couple of hundred years before I came along.  They were or could have been part of the French Huguenots that landed in the Cape in 1687 or they may have arrived at a later stage.

So when we were visiting Paris recently and of course my mothers maiden name which is "Marais" seems quite prominent in the districts of Paris - Le Marais is the closest you will get to the feel of medieval Paris and has more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than any other area in Paris. A glance at some of the beautiful buildings and houses indicates the wealthy status of the former residents. After the revolution, much of the area was abandoned by the rich, and poor bohemian types moved in. 

My mothers Mother maiden name was "De Villiers", so I had to ask why and how did they come to South Africa, I tried doing the whole genealogy thing, but there were too many Marais and too many with the same first name, so I really just gave that up.  So lets just concentrate on the French Huguenots arriving in South Africa. 

Who were the French Huguenots?

The Huguenots were French Protestants most of whom eventually came to follow the teachings of John Calvin, and who, due to religious persecution, were forced to flee France to other countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some remained, practicing their Faith in secret. 

The Protestant Reformation began by Martin Luther in Germany about 1517, spread rapidly in France, especially among those having grievances against the established order of government. As Protestantism grew and developed in France it generally abandoned the Lutheran form, and took the shape of Calvinism. 

The new "Reformed religion" practiced by many members of the French nobility and social middle-class, based on a belief in salvation through individual faith without the need for the intercession of a church hierarchy and on the belief in an individuals right to interpret scriptures for themselves, placed these French Protestants in direct theological conflict with both the Catholic Church and the King of France in the theocratic system which prevailed at that time. Followers of this new Protestantism were soon accused of heresy against the Catholic government and the established religion of France, and a General Edict urging extermination of these heretics (Huguenots) was issued in 1536. 

Nevertheless, Protestantism continued to spread and grow, and about 1555 the first Huguenot church was founded in a home in Paris based upon the teachings of John Calvin. The number and influence of the French Reformers (Huguenots) continued to increase after this event, leading to an escalation in hostility and conflict between the Catholic Church/State and the Huguenots. Finally, in 1562, some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassey, France, thus igniting the French Wars of Religion which would devastate France for the next thirty-five years. 

The Edict of Nantes, signed by Henry IV in April, 1598, ended the Wars of Religion, and allowed the Huguenots some religious freedoms, including free exercise of their religion in 20 specified towns of France. 

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in October, 1685, began a new persecution of the Huguenots, and hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled France to other countries. The Promulgation of the Edict of Toleration in November, 1787, partially restored the civil and religious rights of Huguenots in France. 

Since the Huguenots of France were in large part artisans, craftsmen, and professional people, they were usually well-received in the countries to which they fled for refuge when religious discrimination or overt persecution caused them to leave France. 

Most of them went initially to Germany, the Netherlands, and England, although some found their way eventually to places as remote as South Africa. 

 Considerable numbers of Huguenots migrated to British North America, especially to the Carolina's, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. 

Their character and talents in the arts, sciences, and industry were such that they are generally felt to have been a substantial loss to the French society from which they had been forced to withdraw, and a corresponding gain to the communities and nations into which they settled. 

Here is another link with interesting facts about the Huguenots 

If you think about it, it is so similar to what is happening today, people in the middle East and Africa fleeing their countries by the boat load on a daily basis in search of a better country, only these days they don't encounter open spaces to settle, but are faced with incarceration in a detention centre some for a few years before they are re-settled in a country in Europe.   But that is a whole different post, especially in light of over population in the world today!


There have been a lot of debates on Facebook recently with people wanting to leave South Africa because of the crime, and of course some slating them because of their choices.  I am sure hundreds of years ago when people were fleeing France because of persecution, people were probably doing exactly the same.  

If any of you have been following my blog or my interview on the expats blog you will know that I never left South Africa, we decided to go on a working holiday and somehow we just never went back, not that we did not think about it all the time as our plan was only to spend 5 years abroad and then go home.

In our case when you finally realize that there is no going back, mainly due to our situation it stirs up all those emotions that people who decide to leave for good have.   The depression, the anxiety, the loneliness.

People have been migrating from Europe to South Africa backwards and forwards for centuries.  I am sure not all the French Huguenots stayed, some of them must have returned.  

So why do people leave South Africa

This is a choice a personal difficult choice, when they find that they can no longer live in a country that cannot guarantee their safety.  That dictates to companies who they can and cannot employ.   When friends and or family are being attacked and murdered and you fear your own safety, when you feel that you can no longer live like that.

I have read some horrific stories on Facebook recently, the debates are endless, back in the 90's at the end of apartheid when people were leaving in droves, the called it "the chicken run" and yes I was one of those as well, when my friends and their parents were leaving for Canada and the UK, I said they were on the Chicken run.

But one day I sat back and spoke to my best friend who was born in Scotland and I said to her, why don't you leave you have a passport, and she said I love South Africa, I love the weather and if the Sh!t hits the fan, the British Embassy will protect me as I am a british subject, if there is war they will fly us all back to the UK.    

Where did that leave me, I was South African through and through for the past 300 years my family had been there, we were so mixed in culture, from being solely from a French background on my mothers side, I then found out that my mother's grandmother was German and there was Dutch somewhere along the line too.   My father destroyed all his papers and although we thought he came from Australia there was hints of Scotts and Irish too, so if I wanted to leave I had to do it on my own, with No help from the family tree.  

Our New Home 

We have been in Ireland now for 14 years, my daughter was born here it is the ony home she knows.  She loves South Africa and she knows it was our home, but she has said that she never wants to live there.  She loves the fact that she can climb on her bicycle and ride down the road to Girl Guides on a Friday or ride to her friends house.  We do have a burgler alarm and there is crime in our area, but it would be classed as Petty theft if you lived in SA.  

There are a few murders, but most of these are drug related and unfortunately there have been a few murders because of mistaken identity.  Recently we have had a few car jackings, but very very seldom are people killed, tortured or raped.   My aunt was raped in SA while she was visiting her late husband's grave to put flowers on the grave.

For now I choose to be here in Ireland but who knows this may change in a few years time, we just wait and see.  


Caryn Natalie said...

I am a South African from Cape Town working in the U.S. on a visa. Last year in November I visited Ireland and fell so deeply in love with the place. You live in the most beautiful country! A part of me wishes I had visited long ago and chosen Ireland instead to work in.

Aj Vosse said...

I'm South African... have just joined Expats blog. You've made valuable points and thanks too for the history. My ancestors were French/ Portuguese/ Dutch/ German so, like you my heritage is entwined in Africa. We too will most likely never return! Been here more than 15 years and also came for five, although I think we'd made a subconscious decision when we left that we'd most likely would never return! Story for another day...

AJ at Ouch My Back Hurts

Rozi from Jozi said...

Thank you Caryn and AJ for your comments, I am so glad people still find my blog. Where do you live AJ?